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The Thing About Oil

Whether we like it or not, we need oil products in our daily lives. The Calumet Specialty Products Partnership helps to provide them. Part of their production takes place in a refinery in the city of Great Falls, Montana.

As we descend from the low hills on our way from Havre to Helena, the city of Great Falls, Montana, sprawls in front of us. It is named for a series of five dams built nearby on the Missouri River, one of which helped provide the electricity needed to run the refinery.

The refinery is a landmark of the city, and its presence is hard to miss. But locals are glad for its existence as it provides many jobs and  much-needed products.

When we have passed through we have sometimes taken the city center route and other times the Northwest Bypass. Either way, the refinery is unavoidable and so is the smell.

What amazed me is that right across the street the Montana Club Restaurant and a little farther on, the Wal-Mart and several other businesses, are bustling with customers and doing very well.

Obviously the refinery was there first.

We all hear about pipelines and air pollution and the bad petro-chemicals these days, but oil is part of our survival. We need to eat, and farmers need machinery, and that machinery needs to be oiled and fueled. Vehicles people drive need gasoline and oil. Other by-products like paint, solvents, candle wax, cosmetics, and asphalt  are less necessary, but still convenient to have. Whether we like it or not, it is difficult to do without many of these products for our economy to function.

Finding ways of minimizing the impact of oil product manufacturing is an ongoing challenge, but the people of Great Falls are glad for the jobs and proud of the important products they provide.